American political material at NLS - video transcript

Transcript of the Foreign Collections team's filmed talk about the American political history collections

Hello, I'm Chris Taylor and I'm Dora Petherbridge. We're the Foreign Collections team of the National Library of Scotland.

The National Library of Scotland has collected foreign books for over 300 years. Our particular collection strengths are United States, British Commonwealth and European material.

We are the largest collection of United States material in northern Britain and it is all here for you to see. That's why we're here today, to tell you about that and present our project to you which is called 'Dreams and declarations from the Founding Fathers'.

It was inspired partially by this book, Obama's famous memoir and by the wealth of material we have on the Founding Fathers themselves and by the foundation of America. It was also inspired by the prevalence of the idea of the dream in American political rhetoric.

We're going to be making a series of web films looking at a variety of material from various historic periods of American political history.

The Library collects books by leading politicians of all periods of American history. So, to start, here we have the papers of George Washington published by the University of Virginia. This is a more modern edition of the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. We also here have the autobiography and the letters of Benjamin Rush, who's one of the Founding Fathers, together with the papers of Thomas Jefferson.

In addition to collecting their own writings and autobiographies we have academic and popular biographies of the Founding Fathers and of the presidents.

This one is on John Witherspoon who came from Scotland and signed the Declaration of Independence. He was the only clergyman to do so. We've got a little book here published in 1929 called 'Peeps at great men' and it's about George Washington. And then another Founding Father, John Jay, who was the governor of New York, we have his biography here.

To come more up-to-date we have got a little popular biography of Jackie Onassis, J F Kennedy's wife. And then a span of First Ladies from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama.

We also collect a wide range of academic journals about American political history. So here we have some examples such as 'America: Politics research', 'The American journal of political science', and here we have some older numbers of 'American studies'.

Some of our journal and periodical material is available through our digital resources online but we've also got hard copies of older, popular magazines and newspapers. Here you can see 'Time' magazine and we've got one of their iconic covers here from 1957 showing Dr Martin Luther King.

We also have a volume from 'The New York Times' which is from 1962 and if you turn to the months of October and November you can chart, day by day, the development of the Cuban Missile Crisis. And as you can see here we've got a headline 'Kennedy Finds Progress on Cuba'.

We also have more recent popular magazines such as Newsweek and this one shows President Clinton.

We also collect a wide variety of books from academic publishers in the United States. For example the university presses of Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Chicago, Johns Hopkins and many others.

While as you've seen we've got a huge number of recently published academic works, you can come to the Library for a whole range of material. Some of it published in the early 20th century like these two small books which came into the Library in the First World War, in 1917 and 1918.

And this book which I borrowed from a reader just today. It is a compilation of the illustrations of Harpers Weekly which was a New York-based magazine so there really is something for everyone here.

Here we have a satirical ballad published in Glasgow in 1915 shortly after the sinking of the Lusitania. This work satirises President Woodrow Wilson for not taking the United States into the First World War sooner.

In future web films we'll be looking at the first President of the United States, George Washington. We'll also then go on to look at the fate of British loyalists during and after the American War of Independence.

The music you hear in this video is evocative of the period we will be looking at more closely next time so please join us then.

Music: 'Pretty Polly'. Arranged by John Ciaglia and Jim MacConduibh. Performed by the Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes and Drums. It is an excellent example of three-quarter time Retreat Beating. 'Retreat' was a duty call of the regimental fife and drum corps of the 18th and 19th centuries. It was played in the early evening to signal the end of the soldier's working day.


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